Network Productivity Group

... a computer consultancy



Technical tip #64, November 14, 2005: Backing up Windows XP Home Systems; System Restore and Backup.

Since we stopped leading these tips off with “You did back up your system this weekend, didn’t you?” you’ve probably stopped backing up on a regular basis.  Shame!

Recently while installing a new system running XP Home we discovered that Backup is gone!

While “chatting” with tech support at the manufacturer we were referred to a “white paper” that recommended using The Files and Settings Transfer Wizard (see START >> ALL PROGRAMS >> ACCESSORIES >> SYSTEM TOOLS).  The basic idea is that you copy all your files and settings to your backup media (we still like external hard drives) and should your system crash you then run the Wizard and copy all your files and settings to your new hard drive and Voila! You have a running system… maybe…

A couple of caveats…

We still think you need to have a bootable hard drive before this process will work.  This means that you need to be able to install a copy of Windows on your new hard drive and that version of Windows must be able to access the backup media – in our case a USB attached external hard drive.  (Note:  Apparently Dell is no longer shipping a system restore disk with new systems.  As long as this is true, we can no longer give them the unquestioned support we once did.)

As you may know, one of the tough things about restoring your system is all the files are there but the programs, while on the hard drive, are not “there” in the sense that you can go to the START menu and run them – a real bummer.  We liked what the white paper recommended:  before running the Wizard set a System Restore “restore point”.  (Also in START >> ALL PROGRAMS >> ACCESSORIES >> SYSTEM TOOLS.) Once you’ve restored all your files you can run System Restore and you should be exactly like you were before the crash.  We tried it lately and the only thing that did not run after the restore was one desktop icon (easily replaced).

We like this idea so much we recommend it for use with any tool you use for back up – run System Restore before running backup and after doing a restore.

We also recommend that you run Disk Cleanup before any back up.  The files you delete in that process are not large but the can accumulate over time and are worthless.

It not yet clear to us, if you have multiple user systems and especially if those users have passwords, are all users getting backed up?  It may be necessary to run the Wizard once for each user.


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